In a more strategic move to ensure universal health coverage for all Nigerians, the federal government is mulling plans to ensure that GSM phone users are taxed, including air passengers and goods and services harmful to the health of Nigerians.
This was made known yesterday at the Presidential Summit on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. President Goodluck Jonathan, represented by the Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, harped on the need to diversify the means of funding health insurance in the country.
According to President Jonathan, UHC is a collective challenge and a collective responsibility; one that federal, state, and local governments, as well as the organised private and informal sectors must act together to overcome. Every Nigerian who earns an income, has an obligation to contribute to his/her healthcare, and we all owe it to those who do not have the means to provide for themselves.
“We are, therefore, hosting this summit to establish a unified front, and accelerate progress towards UHC that meets the needs of our people. We are determined to elevate the coverage to a national movement with substantial participation by local and international stakeholders, supported by government and the private sector at all levels.
“We need to keep abreast with other countries in our development bracket in social health insurance. Health insurance must become a part of social culture and our people have to be encouraged to imbibe the benefits of affordable, regular contributions to achieving guaranteed and sustainable long term health services.’’
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He opined that government had “progressively improved healthcare financing and priority interventions. Social health insurance is also gaining ground. Participating hospitals can attest to the increase in their patients and revenue pools as a result of health insurance.”
While explicitly providing the guidelines on how the taxes would be arrived at, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said: “At the current mobile penetration rates of over 100 million active lines as published by the NCC, a N1 additional charge per minute, for 15 minutes a day, for 50 million callers and N1 per text messages per day, for 25 million users, will yield more than N280 billion per annum.”
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Chukwu explained that the universal health coverage levy of N200 per local economy ticket, N1000 per local business class ticket, $10 per international economy ticket and $50 per business and first class international ticket, will generate about N45 billion.”
The minister went further to explain that, “special health taxes on goods with harmful health effects, will also generate additional resources” for the proper funding of the nation’s healthcare system.